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Voting Machines and 'Calibration Drift' 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-it's-not-one-thing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Tuesday saw elections for school boards and city officials throughout Kansas. In Saline, ES&S voting machines in several locations were 'mis-calibrated,' and when the voter touched next to one candidate's name, the 'x' appeared next to another one. One person I talked to said he tried to vote three times before going to the 80-something-year-old election worker, who told him 'It was doing that earlier, but I thought I fixed it.' From the story in today's Salina Journal: 'The iVotronic machines used in Saline County are sold by Elections Systems and Software. In October, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law notified 16 secretaries of state, including Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, that the machines are known to record votes to the wrong candidate.' The county does calibrate the machines the day before each election, but, '... in conversations with ES&S on Thursday, [the county clerk] was told that the calibration might change during the day. "What they've seen is calibration drift on a unit," Merriman said. "They're fine in the morning, but by afternoon they're starting to lose their calibration."' There was also coverage of the problems when they occurred two days ago."
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Voting Machines and 'Calibration Drift'

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  • a new low for /. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:26AM (#27541235)

    One person I talked to said he tried to vote three times before going to the 80-something-year-old election worker, who told him 'It was doing that earlier, but I thought I fixed it.'

    What does that have to do with anything? It's not in TFA. Am I supposed to just take your word for it? Even so, what's it supposed to mean? Old people can't calibrate newfangled voodoo touchscreens?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by conureman (748753)

      @49 years of age, I'm still one of the youngest poll workers around my area, as I've been for the past 20 or so years I've been doing it. Kids nowadays, they just aren't interested in working 14 hours straight with a half-hour break, for less than a C-note. sheesh.

    • From personal experience, very few octogenarians understand diddly about computers. From personal experience with technical support, I would say that a lot of octogenarians take on part time jobs as an ISP's support personnel. While I don't approve of "discrimination" based on age, let's be realistic. Older people are NOT as technically savvy as younger people. Example? I'm 52, my youngest kid is 17. What I have to study, he absorbs by osmosis. He has left me eating his dust with technological gadget

  • Calibrate Per Use? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hal2814 (725639) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:26AM (#27541241)
    How hard would it be to just calibrate per use? I know on things like a Palm Pilot you just touch three places and it's good to go. Why not do that for each voter (or at least offer it to each voter)?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:33AM (#27541263)

      I agree. A system with a touch in the top left corner, bottom right corner, then the center of the screen would add only a very small amount of time.

      After calibrated, the machine could show 4 lists of 4 items, and have the user select 1 highlighted element on each of the 4 lists to ensure that the calibration was correct. If they could not select the 4 items, a light could go off on the station to alert poller assistants.

      I'm as frustrated as you are, hal. This is the type of thing that would come up in even the most basic systems testing. Even some of the worst programmers that I went to college with would have made sure that the system was calibrated properly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I can't believe people here think this is a good idea. You will need to explain to so many people just what the hell it is they are doing and why they must do it, because it will be far, far from intuitive. They will come off with the impression that the whole system is a complete hack... Perhaps you're on to something after all.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:33AM (#27541265) Journal
      Or, for a more reliable solution, do the same thing they do with cash machines and, rather than using a touch screen, put a row of buttons next to the screen and get users to push the button next to the candidate's name.
      • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:45AM (#27541309) Journal
        Or, for an even more reliable solution; The pencil.
        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:58AM (#27541383) Journal

          I'd favour that solution for an entirely different reason: The average voter understands pencils. Trust is a vital part of the election process, and having it depend on something that, to the average voter, is effectively magic is not a good idea because it undermines trust in the electoral process. Even if the machine is 100% reliable, only a small subset of the electorate are capable of verifying this, the rest are required to trust these people.

          Whenever I suggest this, however, I am told that elections in the USA are too complicated for paper and they have to use machines or they would never be able to count the results.

          • by AlHunt (982887) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @08:29AM (#27541527) Homepage Journal

            Whenever I suggest this, however, I am told that elections in the USA are too complicated for paper and they have to use machines or they would never be able to count the results.

            Careful - keep it up and the feds will appoint an "Election Czar". Or maybe the UN will send "observers".

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Sebilrazen (870600)
              I live in Minnesota. Even pencils didn't save us from court appointed observers. Our Senate election is still up in the air.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by blindseer (891256)

              Careful - keep it up and the feds will appoint an "Election Czar". Or maybe the UN will send "observers".

              I would welcome UN observers. It might clean up some of this nonsense we are having with our elections in recent years. Besides, how can we as a nation demand observers for other countries elections and get all upset when they demand observers on our elections? A bit of a double standard I think.

              • I don't see why this isn't standard practice for all UN countries. Each should send election observers to the other countries to ensure that their elections are fair. This has the nice side-effect that it gives the UN observers some practice seeing how an election should be run (hopefully) or, at least, spotting corruption in a situation where the population isn't likely to start shooting them.
              • by AlHunt (982887)

                I would welcome UN observers. It might clean up some of this nonsense we are having with our elections in recent years. Besides, how can we as a nation demand observers for other countries

                US elections are bought and paid for through media outlets. Observers wouldn't make a fart in a whirlwind of difference (well, maybe confirmation the media campaign was effective). There's really no need to tamper with the actual voting process itself.

                Voting in political elections isn't very much different than voting

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by bongomanaic (755112)
                This already happens - the UN observes US federal elections indirectly through a mandate to the OSCE (http://www.osce.org/odihr-elections/14676.html). Each time they report that US elections are generally free and fair, and each time report the same defects that need to be addressed: Lack of transparency in electronic voting, inconsistent registration procedures, disenfranchisement of felons and DC residents, gerrymandering, burdensome ballot access requirements, conflicts of interests for election official
          • by swillden (191260)

            Whenever I suggest this, however, I am told that elections in the USA are too complicated for paper and they have to use machines or they wouldn't get immediate results.

            Hyperbole is not helpful.

        • by conureman (748753) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @08:04AM (#27541403)

          At the polling places I've worked, the (touchscreen) AutoMark machine (for voters with disabilities, &c.) marks a paper ballot, which is counted by the M100 scanner. After the polls close, we seal the marked ballots up in boxes which never get opened up unless there is a problem with the computer's count. The protocols (except for the software) seem fairly robust and transparent, and skeptics are welcome to watch. That's Contra Costa County, YMMV.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by noidentity (188756)

          Or, for an even more reliable solution; The pencil.

          That's too reliable, man! We can't leave the outcome of an election up to the voters!

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Because pencils are known to be unreliable. They are shooting for better than what the pencil can do. Sure, they seem to be missing an awful lot, but it should be able to beat the pencil soundly in theory.
        • Maybe we can compromise - a simple and cheap tech input device that's also reliable. Mouse/keyboard. Has no one considered this?

          When did we decide that touch screens are easier? They aren't. They're a pain in the ass for everyone. Unless, maybe, you're an amputee, and you're depending on being able to touch the screen with your nubs, or if your arthritis prevents you from gripping a mouse. In those cases, maybe we should think about what we did in paper/pencil days (someone needs to help you, I'm gues

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by nametaken (610866)

          You assume the pencil is reliable. It isn't.

          You ever seen a graded stack of scantrons?

      • Or, for a more reliable solution, do the same thing they do with cash machines and, rather than using a touch screen, put a row of buttons next to the screen and get users to push the button next to the candidate's name.

        I've seen poorly calibrated ATMs where they have two options with arrows pointing to the side of the monitor and neither lines up with a button, so you have to guess which button applies to which.

      • I've _certainly_ seen exactly this kind of error on an ATM: I could speculate on various reasons for it, but the drift is certainly noticeable on many of htem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr_Perl (142164)

        Unfortunately you'll get the same screen alignment problems with the cash machine approach. I've seen many cash machines where the screen text was not aligned with the buttons, creating an ambiguity about which one you touch. You can count from the bottom most of the time to figure it out, but some voters will inevitably miss that logical step.

        Paper is still the best choice.

        • The machine I used for the National election was pretty sweet... it used a dial selector like a classic iPod and your selection was highlighted as you scrolled through the options. There was a big green button to confirm your choice and then a screen after that displayed your choice and instruction to confirm again.

          It was pretty idiot proof IMHO. Oh you also get a paper receipt.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tedshultz (596089)
        I used the ES&S automark this past week. The calibration was so far off that I got the vote flipping talked about. I was so alarmed that I took a video with my cell phone. You can see it here. http://shultzonline.com/vote/ [shultzonline.com] I was so upset that I talked to the election officials, and went to the clerks office a few days latter. More or less I found out that all these machines are pieces of crap. A simple solution would have been to add a little space between the names (like they do on ATM machines) so tha
    • by getuid() (1305889) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:47AM (#27541323) Homepage

      Even if it wouldn't be too hard, it's not how it's "supposed to" work.

      A person is supposed to go into the booth and vote, not start to hack on workarounds for obviously faulty hardware design. To bring in the car analogy: it's like having electrically adjustable car lights, and having to re-set them every time you turn them on because they wouldn't remember their position when turned off, or simply "drifted" during you drive.

      Besides: even if you and I and most Palm users are able to perform such (granted, relatively simple) tasks as calibrating a touch screen, not everybody is (think: grandma). And while one may argue whether this is good or not, one cannot argue about one thing: the constitution gives *everyone* above a certain age the right to vote, not only to those who can calibrate touch-screens.

      And: while it was your *choice* to own a palm, it was not everybody's choice to vote electronically. It is (was?) imposed on us. So if somebody is making me vote electronically, they at least ought make sure the damn technology fsck'ing works. It's not like it's rocket science, and it's not like there wouldn't be easy ways to make it work reliably -- worst case, for example by using regular buttons left and right of the screens instead of touch screens (think ATMs of most banks).

      • by Morlark (814687) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @09:17AM (#27541789) Homepage

        Why should anybody be incapable of calibrating a touchscreen? I honestly cannot think of a single situation in which that would occur (barring actual physical disability that would prevent a person from using the machine entirely). I think you're underestimating poor grandma if you think she's incapable of pressing a button on a touchscreen. In fact, why should a person even need to know that they are doing a calibration at all? Why not just have "Press here to begin casting your vote" with a nice obvious red button, and then a few other simple inane comments requiring the user press a button to continue? Job done.

        Saying that, I actually agree with you that a voter shouldn't have to go to the trouble of doing a calibration to work around the machine's faults. But arguing that such a calibration would somehow be discriminatory is an utter nonsense to my way of thinking. Anybody who is capable of using a touchscreen machine to vote is equally capable of calibrating it. As the GP poster said, you just touch three places on the screen and you're good to go.

        • by tedshultz (596089) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @10:03AM (#27542051)
          The calibration was so far off when I voted this week (on an ES&S automark), that I talked the election official about the calibration. More or less it is done the same way you used to with the palm pilot (touch 4 corners). The problem is that there is also some parallax issues as the screen is about 45 degrees off vertical. The result is the calibration can be a little off. A little off is fine and normal if the interface is good, but on the automark machines, they put the candidates names right next to each other so even a small error in calibration will result in the wrong candidate being selected. I took a video of my self voting, (it's here: http://shultzonline.com/vote/ [shultzonline.com] ). in the video is is clear that not the person I am pressing is selected, and that a candidate only 5mm away is selected.
          • by Allicorn (175921)
            Sheesh. Doesn't get much clearer than that. Check those videos! Somebody with points today mod parent up pls?
    • by repvik (96666)

      Is it really necessary? I mean... I *never* calibrated my iPhone. Ever.

      • by spud603 (832173)
        That's a good point.
        I wonder if it's an issue of hardware cost. Maybe it's just that reliable touch screens are too expensive for municipalities to buy in bulk? (in which case I would argue again that they shouldn't be using them at all if they're not going to be reliable).
    • by DJRumpy (1345787)
      Because if you leave it up to the voter, it would open up the machine to easy manipulation. One could easily change the calibration to purposely shift votes from the left of the screen to the right by an inch or two.

      Definitely not a good idea.

      A better idea would be for them to purchase voting machines that are open source and that actually work as designed.
    • You shouldn't have to calibrate per use. My phone is a touch screen device and I use it all day. Since I've bought it over a year ago it never lost its calibration. I've never seen other touch-screen devices lose their calibration so quickly in other areas. Whether it be the software or hardware, something is faulty with these machines. How much do tax payers shell out for these pieces of shit? With that kind of cash floating around, and for something as important as voting, there shouldn't be stupid issues

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rob the Bold (788862)

        You shouldn't have to calibrate per use. My phone is a touch screen device and I use it all day. Since I've bought it over a year ago it never lost its calibration.

        As an engineering problem, your phone has several advantages over a touch-screen voting machine.

        • Size. Your phone's screen is an order of magnitude smaller in linear dimension and therefore two orders of magnitude smaller in are than the touchscreen on a voting machine. The cost of the voting machine's touchscreen is therefore much greater.
        • Volume. Your phone is produced in far greater quantities than a voting machine. This results in cost savings through volume purchasing of its component parts. It al
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by pmarini (989354)
      and how many times one has to calibrate a $300 PDA these days?
      it's really abominable that these $A_LOT voting machines "forget" where a certain position on the screen is only after a few hours! it looks more a "feature" than a drift to me...
      I'm growing tired of suggesting over and over the simple use of actual push-buttons (not on-screen ones) to go with the voting process (or to be considered for "manual override" use by the voter)...
    • by cliffski (65094)

      Here in England we vote using paper and pens. The pens never need calibrating.
      We don't understand why machines have any advantages at all. We never queue up to vote either.
      I don't vaguely trust my vote to a piece of electronics. And I'm not a luddite, I'm a programmer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:26AM (#27541243)

    Right. I've been using touchscreen gear for more than 11 years now. Monitors with touchscreens built in, tablet PCs, iMacs with touch-enabling overlays, two cintiqs of my own and many dozens I've sold and supported to graphic artists.

    They NEVER 'drift'. I've not seen even the cheapest touchscreen gear 'drift'. What's with this drift excuse? That smells too much like an excuse for throwing elections. Color me for stating the obvious, but sorry that sounds too suspicious.

    • by conureman (748753)

      As the software is proprietary and secret, we can only speculate as to the cause for this irregularity. BTW I'm not working the polls May 19, I'm on VACATION.

      • by Megane (129182)
        It doesn't matter if the software is proprietary and secret if the problem is with the hardware. This sounds like a cheap touch screen that goes out of calibration easily with the kind of use that it gets when used for a voting application.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by DarkOx (621550)

          I am sorry but on a voteing machine the entire software stack should be OPEN.

          How do you *know* its a hardware problem if you don't have the ability to audit the software? Maybe there is a back door and someone can setup up so that if candidate X is doing a little to well, a certain number of clicks on X get recorded as clicks W above or Y below so it *looks* like a hardware calibration issue.

    • by Ken D (100098)

      One anecdote is not data.

      I'VE been using touchscreen's for 11 years and MY 11 year old Palm Pilot Vx touchscreen drifts ALL THE TIME.
      It drifts from hour to hour as the temperature of the unit changes. It didn't do this when it was young, but it got so bad that I almost threw it out because sometimes I couldn't get into calibration mode the calibration was so bad.
      Then I found a Palm App called "Digifix", which lets you recalibrate the screen no matter how bad the drift is by entering calibration upon soft r

      • by conureman (748753)

        Maybe some *kid* should be hired to install big copper heatsinks and loud-ass fans in these units.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sortius_nod (1080919)

        You're talking about an 11 year old palm... not "state of the art voting machines".

        Your Palm is well past it's used by date, these machines are supposed to be purpose built.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by smchris (464899)

          Don't know about ESS but I understand a lot of these machines have been Windows 2000 and Access. Why assume they went to any more trouble junking the hardware together? Just another example of the private sector making a Holy profit, you know.

          My greater interest is statistical. How much "drifting" has been for the incumbent in recent years and what are the odds it was chance?

    • by JorDan Clock (664877) <jordanclock@gmail.com> on Saturday April 11, 2009 @11:39AM (#27542665)
      I've worked around touchscreen point-of-sale equipment for a few years now, and during my own use of the POS screens and the use of others, I've never once heard of calibration being an issue on a screen, with the exception of a brand new, out-of-the-box screen. If these voting screens need calibration beyond their first start up, then they're doing something very wrong.
  • by John3 (85454) <john3@cornells. c o m> on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:32AM (#27541261) Homepage Journal

    My Motorola PDA can stay calibrated for weeks on end, and the touch-screen PC in my hardware store paint department has been calibrated for over a year, but they can't keep a voting machine calibrated for more than a few hours?

    Now when the pundits say the electorate is "drifting to the left" we'll know it's not a political shift but just a calibration drift.

  • Treason (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:42AM (#27541297) Journal
    if this were the 70's and touch screen was brand new tech I would believe this.

    however it's not the 70's and every touch screen device i have ever seen holds it's calibration or doesn't need to be calibrated. From ATM's that are exposed directly to outdoor weather to late 90's production eBook readers to the Nintendo DS I have never once seen one lose calibration in any reasonable time and it's rare to need to calibrate at all except when combining a touch sensor to a system not built for touch sensor use.

    this is outright election fraud and IMO it is treason and should be dealt with accordingly.
    • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aepervius (535155) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:51AM (#27541349)
      The most probable explanation is extremly shoddy hardware engineering combined with extremly shoddy software engienering ina bid to make as much benefit as possible. I have seen this with another touch screen machine, and although I did not ask the team what was the problem in detail, the aforementionned point were the problem. The old adage probablym hold : Never attribute to malice what can adequately explained by idiocy and/or greed.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Do the touch screens always fail in the same way? Was the way the screens fail known when the ballots were designed? My bet is yes and yes. Let's find out! If I'm right then it's election fraud, plain and simple.

      • by VShael (62735)

        False dichotomy. In this case, greed adequately explains the conspiracy side.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blackest_k (761565)

      To be fair, there are some quite poor touch screens out there. I can think of two examples my toshiba e740 occasionally loses calibration generally after the batterys run completely flat. But the other Example is a point of sale (cash register) theres no issues within the POS app but if you want to play around with WIN-CE Calibration is off and recalibrating doesn't seem to help much. Which kinda makes the point that provided the interface is designed well enough a few pixels out will not matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by maddskillz (207500)

      The movie ticket kiosks at the theatre here seem to get miscalibrated all the time. Most people don't use them because of that. On the plus side, once you figure out which way it is miscalibrated, you can use it, and you don't have to wait in line

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:46AM (#27541313)

    ...happened in Finland last week. A few municipalities tested electronic voting in the last (municipal) elections and when (unsurprisingly) irregularities occurred (232 votes were not counted properly), the results were challenged all the way to the supreme court, which now decided that the elections must be held again. The lawyer representing the appealing parties has said that he doubts that any politician will ever propose electronic voting in this country again.

    That outcome is thus quite positive but it would've been even better if the minister responsible for it had accepted her responsibility and resigned like many people demanded her to.

  • by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:50AM (#27541339)

    Put physical buttons of to the side of the screen to press. How difficult was that?

    And yes, the drift excuse sounds like B.S.

  • by hengdi (1202709) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:58AM (#27541381)

    Touchscreen calibration? I used to work for a company that built quiz machines and the like for the UK pub industry (circa 2000). Essentially they were simple PC's with a touchscreen (the monitor had a PS2 output).

    We used to leave those machines running at various sites for YEARS, and I can't ever remember a calibration problem. And trust me, we'd know because when a customer starts to lose money they let the pub know about it all right. The biggest problem we had was the coin slot mechanism screwing up.

    So now you're telling me that almost 10 years later and the calibration in a voting machine can't last A WHOLE GODDAMN DAY? That's service so bad it almost makes me believe in the conspiracy angle!

  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @08:29AM (#27541531)

    has this problem.

    Granted, I've only been developing apps for them since about 1991, but I've NEVER seen any "calibration drift".

    Heck, if the Client wants to "calibrate" them, I usually have to root around in the menus to find the CAL function. Touch the top right corner...

    They just work.

    What sort of cheap crap are the voters paying for?

  • I'm no conspiracy theorist but aren't their like, oh I don't know, A MILLION TOUCHSCREEN ATMS AROUND THE WORLD? I don't recall hearing about this calibration issue with them. I guess it's possible that since the banks definitely want it to be accurate they make sure they work.

    Why wouldn't someone want the voting machines to work? William D Howell Sr.
  • How difficult would it be to have the user enter his/her vote, and then before the "ballot" is registered, show a confirmation screen, which would then require the voter to hit yes or no?

    If an ATM machine can do a decent job with touch screen technology, then why can't these systems?

  • I simply do not understand the persistence by election officials to use flawed voting methods whatsoever. As far as I'm concerned, this is a GO/NO GO issue.
    Apparently with most State Election Officials it's a GO/GO issue with no asterisk, no qualifications, nothing. This just in ... you can run an election on paper if you just keep the polls a manageable size. So, there's no excuse for not having a fall back method to replace one that does not work.

    Maybe they should just contact the gaming industry ... they

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @08:55AM (#27541677)

    Drift? Seriously?

    You mean that kiosks in airports, malls, restaurants, hotels, atm machines that sit outdoors, my iPhone, my Windows Mobile phone, tablet PCs and god knows what else can be calibrated once and last for years, but these voting machines can't last for 8 hours?

    Most traditional touch screens CAN'T drift. They need an initial calibration to align the location of touches to match the display to deal with manufacturing and assembly differences, but they don't actually drift, ever.

    WHAT THE FUCK are they doing to get drift in the system? The $2 multitouch video on YouTube shows a system less likely to drift than this shit?

    Someone needs to be hung. We need to start instituting criminal punishment for leaders of companies that produce crap like this. There is no accountability anymore because everyone hides behind 'the corp'. That shit needs to end now. We can either do it legally, or wait a little while longer and watch the public start taking the law into their own hands.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Could always vote by lining all the candidates up, and throwing rocks at everyone except the one you want to vote for. The one left alive is obviously the one who was most favored. The only drift then is if your aim is bad. I think it could work! Vote by stoning.

  • Or are "school boards and city official" elections, to damn complicated for Americans to write an X in a few boxes?

  • The votes came back in Algeria today. The leader who has a vast amount of blood on his hands (Mugabe is nothing compared to him) that is facing open military rebellion in many areas collected more than 90% of the vote. That's a possible future if you continue to not have proper oversight over an electoral system.
  • which way? (Score:5, Funny)

    by v1 (525388) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @10:01AM (#27542029) Homepage Journal

    So, have we found it more common for the calibration to drift to the right, or to the left ?

  • by h4x354x0r (1367733) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @10:26AM (#27542179)
    A touchscreen - especially one on a voting machine - that supposedly needs re-calibrated every few users is pure bullshit. PURE bullshit.

    I work in A/V control systems and deal with touchscreens every day. Some are used very heavily - not quite as much as a voting machine on voting day, but probably gets as many touches within a few days time. The need for re-calibration is rare; I'm talking once a year maybe? The worst touchscreen I've ever seen is a the wacom overlay on a Modbook (Macbook repackaged as a touchscreen tablet PC). That POS needs re-calibrated about... once a month. Add other's comments about all the touchscreen kiosks in airports, etc.; same f*ing technology, but they don't need recalibrated every 10 minutes.

    There's just no way this isn't a case of either gross negligence / incompetence, or criminal vote rigging.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @10:46AM (#27542319)
    ... where the little X is drawn? The issue here is trust. Without a audit/paper trail, the machine could show the mark correctly and *still* register an "incorrect" vote. How hard is it to print a reciept? My ATM gives me a reciept. For f*ck's sake, the gas pump gives me a reciept (and if it's out of paper, it tells me to go to the cashier).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tokerat (150341)

      The issue here is trust. Without a audit/paper trail, the machine could show the mark correctly and *still* register an "incorrect" vote. How hard is it to print a reciept? My ATM gives me a reciept.

      If the issue is trust, what is to stop the machine from showing you a fake X *AND* printing you a fake receipt? With a fake bar code that scans for the wrong candidate (even thought it doesn't appear that way) during a recount?

  • by memorycardfull (1187485) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @11:01AM (#27542403)
    It's the people that create it. It is not technically difficult to tabulate millions of responses accurately so long as it remains an exercise in simply counting things. The complicating factor is that the results serve to distribute vast amounts of money and power which creates motivation for fraud that undermines that simple process. We should have no illusions about the accuracy of the tabulation process until there is open source code, paper audit logs and the opportunity for the public to examine these records for signs of fraud. Perhaps as an additional safeguard statistical comparison with exit polls should be required by law and any significant deviation should trigger an investigation of the process for possible tampering. These technical issues are only symptoms of the real problem.

    "Proverbs for Paranoids #3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." -- Thomas Pynchon

  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @11:19AM (#27542511)

    The capacitive technology is crap. It needs to be calibrated. It was intended to replace a mouse. It is WRONG.

    In this application one can use contact-based touch screen technology. Very similar to what's in your keyboard. There is no drift. No calibration. Resolution is low, but who cares? You are not moving a cursor around on a screen, you are picking one of a small number of choices.

  • by ukemike (956477) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:10PM (#27542895) Homepage
    Maybe this is an exceedingly small county, but if not I call BS on their claim that they calibrated them all the day before. I frequently work as an election worker. Because of this I get to witness first hand the logistical heavy lifting that goes into pulling off an election. It is far from easy. A typical single precinct voting location has 4-6 voting booths. Locations with multiple precincts might have 2 times that many. There are a few hundred precincts. So for a county that uses all touchscreen machines it would be reasonable to assume they have several hundred touchscreen machines, maybe over a thousand.

    They are claiming that the day before, in addition to distributing the machines to the precincts and all of the other tasks, they booted up every one, and then ran it through the calibration routine? I don't buy it. I think they are in CYA mode. If they did really do it, I bet it was done by a volunteer who booted up 10 machines at a time then calibrated them all as fast as he could, and did a really lousy job.

    At least in this case it appears to be a result of rampant incompetence. I am convinced that the Diebold machines are programed they way they to facilitate election theft.
  • by grandpa-geek (981017) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:24PM (#27543001)

    There is a deposition from a lawsuit stating that, IIRC, either the screens or the machines themselves were manufactured in --literally -- a sweatshop in the Philippines. There was excessive heat and moisture. IIRC, the only testing was a shake test; they shook each product and if they didn't hear any loose parts it passed the test.

    Our nation is founded on the principle that "...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Both the sellers and the buyers of these touchscreens are attempting to use cheap crap for implementing that principle, i.e., determining the "consent of the governed". Those who allow this to happen should be deeply ashamed.

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